Kuwait used ‘excessive force’ at demos: HRW – Govt says needs to maintain law and order

KUWAIT: Kuwaiti security forces appear to have used excessive force to disperse several largely peaceful street protests since October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday, citing activists, protesters and witnesses.
Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis have taken to the streets over the past two months to protest changes to voting rules used in a parliamentary election on Dec 1 that they said would skew the outcome in favour of pro-government candidates.
The Interior Ministry justified the use of force on the grounds that protesters had blocked traffic, thrown stones at the police, and attacked them, HRW said. But participants said the demonstrations were largely peaceful. “They said that masked riot police used tear gas and sound bombs without warning to disperse demonstrations and beat protesters while arresting them for participating in ‘unauthorized protests,’” the New York-based rights group said.
Kuwait’s Information Ministry, in reaction to the HRW statement, said authorities were required to maintain law and order when illegal marches and demonstrations took place. “Kuwait has witnessed several protests in 2012 where streets were blocked and riots took place at residential areas which endangered civilians and public properties,” the ministry said. “The right to protest is enshrined in our constitution. However, protesters should be aware of both their rights and responsibilities under the law.” It recalled that authorities had allowed several processions to take place this year after organisers obtained a proper licence and police provided necessary protection to protesters.
Although Kuwait, an OPEC member state and ally of the United States, tolerates more dissent than other Gulf Arab countries, it has been enforcing a ban on public gatherings of more than 20 people without a permit. “Kuwait’s rulers need to fully respect the right to assemble peacefully,” Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at HRW said in the statement issued from Beirut.
“Declaring a gathering ‘unauthorized’ does not give police license to beat protesters.” Kuwaiti protesters have been less radical in their demands than demonstrators in other Arab countries, calling for the reinstatement of the old voting system, action against corruption and for an elected government rather than one appointed by the prime minister, who is chosen by HH the Amir. “The authorities should show they will not tolerate abuses by investigating all allegations of abuse by security forces and punishing those responsible for violating rights,” Goldstein said. HRW also said Kuwait should increase the accountability of police by ending the use of masked anti-riot officers.
“While police agents may have legitimate reasons to mask their identities in limited circumstances, such as when conducting surveillance, policing demonstrations is not one of them.” HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who used emergency powers to change the voting system, said on Dec 16 he supported freedom of expression and constructive criticism, but recent events had shown “aspects of chaos, breaching of the law and unguided political discourse”. The momentum of the protests has slowed since the election, with the last rally on Dec 15 drawing several hundreds of people. —Agencies


#Bahrain | Mercenary Forces attack and beaten unarmed protester in AlEkr area

قوات المرتزقة تعتدي بالضرب و بوحشية على متظاهر أعزل في بلدة العكر
See Translation

US evacuates Central African Republic embassy

The US says it has evacuated its embassy in the Central African Republic as rebels threaten to advance towards the capital, Bangui.

The state department said it had not broken off diplomatic ties with the government but warned US citizens not to travel to CAR during the unrest.

Earlier, CAR President Francois Bozize appealed to the US and France to help block the rebel advance.

The UN has said it is evacuating its non-essential staff from the country.

Protesters in Bangui (19 December 2012) Tensions are said to be rising in the capital Bangui as the rebels advance

US state department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the embassy had suspended operations and that the ambassador and other staff had left the country on Thursday.

"This decision is solely due to concerns about the security of our personnel and has no relation to our continuing and long-standing diplomatic relations with the CAR," he said in a statement.

The BBC's Junior Lingangue in Bangui says resident are stockpiling food amid fears that the rebels - known as the Seleka coalition - could launch an assault in the next few days.

On Sunday, the rebels captured the northern city of Bambari, the third largest in the country, having earlier seized the rich diamond mining area around Bria.

On Wednesday, protesters in Bangui attacked the embassy of former colonial power France, accusing Paris of abandoning them.

France has about 200 soldiers based in CAR and stepped up security at its embassy after the attack.

President Bozize apologised for the incident and appealed for "our French cousins" and the US "to help us to push back the rebels".


However, French President Francois Hollande said Paris would not intervene in its former colony.

"If we have a presence, it's not to protect a regime, it's to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic," he said. "Those days are over."

Seleka, which is made up of breakaway factions from three former armed groups, accuses Mr Bozize of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal, under which fighters who laid down their arms were meant to be paid.

The rebels have pledged to depose Mr Bozize unless he negotiates with them.

They began their campaign a month ago and have taken several towns in their push towards the capital.

Iran sacks sole female minister Dastjerdi from health post

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sacked Health Minister Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi, the sole woman in his cabinet, state television reports.

Ms Dastjerdi was also the first woman minister in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic.

While no reason has been given, the dismissal is being linked to her call for drug price rises to fight shortages caused by international sanctions.

Mr Ahmadinejad rejected her comments, saying her budget needs had been met.
'Inevitable' price rise
Analysts say international sanctions have done significant damage to the Islamic republic's economy and led to a steep currency plunge.

Although they do not directly target medicines, they limit their importation because of restrictions on financial transactions.

Prior to her dismissal, Ms Dastjerdi said that because of the rise in the foreign exchange rate, there would be an inevitable increase in the price of medicine.

She complained of her department's inability to get access to foreign currency she had been promised.

"In the first half of the current year, the Central Bank has not allocated any exchange for the import of drugs and medical equipment," she said.

"We need $2.5bn (£1.6bn) in foreign exchange to meet the needs of the medical sector for the year, but only $650m has been earmarked."

But President Ahmadinejad said in a TV interview that enough money had been allocated to the health ministry.

"No-one has the right to raise the price of medicine," he added.

Mohammad Hassan Tariqat Monfared has been appointed as interim health minister, the Reuters news agency reports.

The EU and US recently announced new sanctions over Iran's nuclear plans.

They suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, something it denies.

Ms Dastjerdi was the first woman minister of the Islamic republic, although a woman did serve as vice-president for the environment under Mohammad Khatami.


Obama tells Rwanda to end DRC rebel support

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to end all support for rebels in the conflict-wracked Democratic Republic of Congo, the White House said.
The White House issued the strongly worded statement about the leaders’ call after Washington imposed sanctions on two top leaders of the M23 rebel group, saying they had used child soldiers and singled out children as targets.
In his telephone conversation with Kagame, Obama “underscored that any support to the rebel group M23 is inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace,” the White House said.
Obama stressed to Kagame “the importance of permanently ending all support to armed groups in the DRC, abiding by the recent commitments he made… and reaching a transparent and credible political agreement that includes an end to impunity for M23 commanders and others” who committed rights abuses, it said.
The DR Congo government has been battling the M23, former army soldiers who UN experts say are backed by Rwanda, since they launched a mutiny in April.
Several of the group’s leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities.
Obama called for a political agreement in DR Congo that “addresses the underlying regional security, economic and governance issues while upholding the DRC’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The White House said he had delivered the same message to DRC President Joseph Kabila.
During their talks, Obama and Kagame also discussed the DRC’s “longstanding governance problems,” according to the White House.
“President Obama welcomed President Kagame’s commitment to moving forward in finding a peaceful solution for eastern DRC,” it added.
Also on Tuesday, the United States launched a fresh appeal for the arrest and prosecution of two rebel leaders from Rwanda and DR Congo wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
Sylvestre Mudacumura, the head of Rwanda’s main Hutu rebel group and DR Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda, an ex-general who spurred the ongoing mutiny in the east, are both the subject of outstanding ICC warrants.

By AFPThe East African

Kuwait TV channel court trial postponed

Opposition-linked TV channel shut down for alleged violation of regulations
  • Gulf News Report

Manama: A Kuwaiti court postponed its verdict in a case filed by a private television station against the information ministry for revoking its licence to January 2.
The ministry said that it pulled the plug on Al Yawm Television last week after it failed to comply with broadcasting regulations despite several requests and a final deadline.
Regulations require that a television channel appoint a full time Kuwaiti director, which the channel allegedly had not done.
However, the channel owners said that their papers were in order and that the channel had a full-time manager, Ahmad Al Jabr, as requested by the ministry.
The channel claimed it had been wronged by the ministry’s decision and said that Al Jabr was the head of the media group and was in this capacity the manager of the television station.
Several opposition figures, in an open standoff with the government, said that they supported the TV station in its quest to get back on air.
The new government said that it wanted to implement a zero-tolerance policy towards violations of the laws.

Iran rejects Gulf interference accusation

Foreign ministry spokesperson says allegations are not worth responding to
  • Reuters

Dubai: Iran rejected accusations from Gulf Arab states that it was meddling in their affairs, saying those countries were “running away from reality”, an Iranian news agency reported on Wednesday.
Six US-allied states demanded Iran end what they called interference in the region, in a statement on Tuesday at the end of a two-day summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), reiterating a long-held mistrust of their main rival.
The communique did not elaborate, but the most common Gulf Arab complaint relates to Bahrain, which has repeatedly accused Tehran of interference in its internal politics by provoking protests.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast dismissed the statement. “Shifting the responsibility for the domestic problems of the regional countries is a way of running away from reality, and blaming others or using oppressive methods are not the right ways to answer civil demands,” he said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).
The oil-producing GCC states wield influence out of proportion to their sparse populations due in part to global energy and investment links, generous international aid and Saudi Arabia’s role as home to Islam’s two holiest sites.
Iran sees the Gulf as its own backyard and believes it has a legitimate interest in expanding its influence there.
In Manama, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa told reporters on Tuesday that Iran posed a “very serious threat”.
“Politically, [there is] lots of meddling in the affairs of GCC states; an environmental threat to our region from the technology used inside nuclear facilities; and there is of course the looming nuclear programme,” he said, referring to Iran’s disputed atomic work.
When asked about the Bahraini remarks, Mehmanparast said they were not worth responding to, ISNA said.
Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, has accused Iran of being behind the unrest witnessed during the opposition uprising last year. Tehran denies this.
Bahrain’s rulers brought in GCC forces last year to help quell the protests. Iran condemned the move, saying it could lead to regional instability.
Iran is also at odds with the United States and its allies over its disputed nuclear activities which the West fears is aimed at making nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
The GCC is made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

Bahrain probe launched into police slapping incident

Interior minister stresses compliance with police code
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  • Published: 13:23 December 26, 2012
Manama: Bahrain’s interior minister has ordered an inquiry into abuses and violations by policemen.
A committee chaired by Tariq Al Hassan, the head of public security, will look into violation cases and will identify ways to address them, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Rashid Al Khalifa said.
The probe was ordered after a video showing a policeman slapping a Bahraini in the central town of A’ali was posted on the internet.
“Such abuses as posted on social sites affect dignity and humanity and embarrass every security man doing his job honestly and sincerely,” Shaikh Rashid said. “They do not reflect the disciplined approach and the level of commitment that we always strive to enforce and achieve. They also undermine the genuine role of the security men who perform their work round the clock in order to reinforce security and ensure the safety of all Bahraini citizens and residents.”
Shaikh Rashid said that the ministry did not allow abuses and held violators fully accountable for their acts.
“We stress that we do seek to promote community partnership and to strengthen confidence-building between the police and the society, given their significance in achieving civil peace,” the minister said.
The interior ministry has hired British and US expertise to help instil a more human rights based culture following a searing report by an international commission that listed abuses by security personnel during the events that hit Bahrain in February and March 2011 and their consequences.
The ministry acknowledged the report and vowed to implement its recommendations with the help of security experts with British and US experience.

Al-Watan daily newspaper praises outcome of the Manama Summit

Manama: Dec. 26 -- (BNA) The Bahrain-based Al-Watan daily newspaper described the recommendations and resolutions issued by the GCC leaders during their Summit meeting yesterday in the Kingdom of Bahrain contribute into the best interest of GCC citizens' security and livelihood and cements the foundations for future development and prosperity, pointing out that the GCC citizen was the focal point for the 33rd GCC Summit.
According to Al-Watan, the Summit's outcomes come to fulfill the ambitions, aspirations of GCC peoples in terms of food security, health, water and the media and unifies strategies in various service sectors, asserting that these priorities pave the way for an immediate, promising and better future for the GCC peoples.

Al-Watan praised initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is the invitation extended by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who called for the need to move from the phase of cooperation to the phase of Gulf Union, during the Riyadh Summit last year. Riyadh presented a bill of the articles of association for the proposed Gulf Union and explained the concept.

Al-Watan praised the outcome and resolutions issued by the 33rd GCC Summit and described the final communique as laden with essential resolutions which will be felt by the GCC citizens soon. The GCC leaders accorded top priority to joint action and the requirements of full GCC citizenship, the Summit increases joint military cooperation and defense integration by the creation of a unified military command and developing the Peninsula Shield Forces, approval of the joint security agreement endorsed by the GCC Interior Ministers last November and leads to expediting the implementation of the economic agreement, especially regarding the GCC common market, consolidated currency, customs and tariffs' union and regulatory legislations which also contribute in boosting the spirit of GCC citizenship.

Al-Watan concluded by describing the initiative of HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa when he allocated a piece of land in order to construct offices for the GCC General-Secretariat on territories of the Kingdom of Bahrain which in itself bespeaks of an integration added over and above to the Arabian Gulf integration and destination.



#Bahrain | A mercenary officer "Ali Aaref" slaps a citizen on his face while he carrying his child. | Aali 14 Dec 2012
المرتزق الضابط "علي عارف" يقوم بصفع مواطن أعزل بينما هو حامل ولدة الرضيع


Bahrain activists in Brussels urge EU for embargo on teargas and visa sanctions


Bahrain Free Trade Agreement

Executive office of the Presidents


Bahrain Responds to U.S. Labour Department Report on FTA

Manama-Dec20 (BNA) The Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain has examined the extensive report by the U.S. Department of Labor on the Free Trade Agreement and its recommendations.

As part of its commitment to national reconciliation and support to the political and social stability of the country, the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain has taken the necessary measures to reinstate all workers who had been dismissed from both public and private sectors, an issue which was in its entirety a result of their failure to report to work during the period of political unrest in Bahrain in February and March of 2011.

This issue was under intensive review by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, and addressed in their report released in November 2011.

In coordination with the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) envoys to Bahrain, the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain had also provided a detailed report on this issue to the ILO since November of 2011.

In March of 2012, the ILO acknowledged the positive developments made in addressing the issue of dismissed workers. And in November 2012, the Government of Bahrain submitted to the ILO the additional results that have been achieved in this regard.

The Kingdom of Bahrain announces that 98% of dismissed works have been reinstated and their cases resolved, and the remaining issues are to be addressed through the adopted administrative or judiciary procedures in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

It is unfortunate that the statements made in the U.S Department of Labor’s report are not updated and do not include any developments achieved after August 2012, although many cases were resolved after that date.

We believe that with the issuance of the new labor law in 2012, Bahrain has met all its obligations concerning the freedom of forming societies, regulations and collective labor negotiation, in line with the labor article mentioned in the Free Trade Agreement.

Information related to this issue is available on the official websites for each of the respective ministries relevant to the situation.



US Navy Pulls Two Aircraft Carriers from Syria Shores

TEHRAN (FNA)- Two aircraft carriers stationed off the Syrian coast were sent back to the US this week in a move that the Obama administration thought would ease tensions, but angered Turkish officials who hoped for significant US military presence in the region. 

The USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier and the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and its 2,500 marines were recalled after being stationed on the Syrian coast, allegedly in preparation for potential military invasion, RT reported.

The USS Eisenhower, which has the capacity to hold thousands of men, joined the other warship during the first week of December, ready to launch an American-led military intervention "within days" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were to use chemical weapons against the opposition, Time reported. But as the violence escalated in the past few days, the warships took off and headed back to the US.

Given the mission of the warships, their leaving means that Washington is now assured that Syria does not have any chemical weapons.

Syria always stressed that it does not have a chemical stockpile. Syrian officials have also repeatedly said that their country would never use such weapons "even if they had them."

The US usually has two aircraft carriers stationed in the Persian Gulf at all times, but will only have one deployed this month - the USS John C. Stennis, which is stationed nowhere near Syria. By recalling the USS Eisenhower and the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, the US simply outraged its key ally in the region - Turkey.

An unnamed senior Turkish officer told Israel's DEBKAfile that America's removal of the aircraft carriers is "hard to understand and unacceptable to Ankara."

None of Syria's neighbors, which include Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel, have officially criticized the Obama administration for its recall of its naval forces, but unnamed officials told DEBKAfile that Turkish officials are very upset about the move. 

Homosexuality is “unAfrican” in pre-colonial history

By Cosmic Yoruba – Black Looks

When I read a paper by an African researcher that insinuates that Africans learnt homosexuality from Europeans (and/or Arabs), I do not go to my happy place where only thoughts of first love and first kisses rule. Rather I think about waking up in the dead of the night to a ghostly white female figure hovering over my bed.
The white woman that all African lesbians, bisexual women and women who sex with women know intimately, because after all we learnt this from Europeans. In this cult of gayness that the Europeans started, we are taught our colonial heritage and to venerate Margherita dos Santos, the first very bored, very gay Portuguese colonist wife who successfully seduced a young African woman in the 16th century thereby making homosexuality an African identity.
The above sound ridiculous? Well ridiculous is what I find Africans who go out of their way to argue how “unAfrican” homosexuality is. Africans who write lengthy “logical” papers, disputing various sources and references, all while ignoring the real lives of LGBTIQ Africans today. Their efforts are not only silly but dangerous to me and I probably wouldn’t spit on them if they were on fire. I recently read one such paper, but this one left me totally disheartened because I initially thought it was pro-African queers. The paper in question is “A name my mother did not call me: Queer contestations in African Sexualities” by Taiwo Oloruntoba-Oju. Perhaps when I saw this title I zoned in on the “queer contestations in African sexualities” part and for some reason believed that it was arguing for the presence of homosexuality in pre-colonial African history. Little did I know that the paper was written by someone who finds it “agonising that disputation about the status of homosexuality in Africa is often equated with “homophobia” even when some of the disputants have close and friendly relations with known homosexuals” and who believes that “the imputation of homosexuality as an African identity must of necessity generate [antagonism]”.
I happily settled down to read the paper, and it started innocently enough but the more I read the paper, the more my face fell and now days after reading it, I find that I am still angry with it. But I can’t stop thinking about it and need to let my jumbled thoughts out in this post.This paper evoked all sorts of feelings in me so this post may be lengthy, I’ve broken it down to sections based on what I found problematic in the paper, so you can leave and return easily. If I sound angry, I most likely am.
Africa as a monolith
Africa is such a big country, and what happens in one part of Africa happens in the other part. So you come from an ethnic group that has apparently never known what homosexuality is yet manages to somehow consider it an abomination, this must be the same all across the village that is Africa. It does not matter that your ethnic group numbers in the millions, and that different regions have always had different customs in spite of sharing a similar language (which turns out is not so similar considering dialects). In one corner of the continent, homosexuality is considered a deviance so this must be the same across the African continent. This ignores the diversity in which disparate African philosophies viewed homosexuality, while in some societies gays, lesbians and transgendered people were key to society’s psychic balance (as among the Dagara of Burkina Faso), in others there were witches who were exiled (see Izugbara O. Chimaraoke, “Sexuality and the supernatural in Africa”, pp. 533-558, in African Sexualities: A Reader, ed. Sylvia Tamale). The antagonists towards homosexuality as an African identity will do well in remembering this.
Western terms and African sexualities
When the antagonists argue that homosexuality did not exist on the African continent before the advent of the Europeans and/or Arabs, do they mean same-sex love or same-sex sex. Were Africans waiting to learn how to develop feelings for a member of the same sex from the European and/or Arab gay bogeyman? Or did queer Africans never practice any form of sexual activity before the foreigners taught them to? Then again the Europeans and/or Arabs supposedly taught our ancestors a lot, they civilised us, they brought complex religious systems and the One True God, they taught us manners, they taught us how to wear clothes, they taught us how to build civilisations, they taught us how to maintain personal hygiene, they taught us medicine…and they taught us how to develop feelings for the same sex and how to sexually act on these feelings.
Truth is many Africans today are disconnected from the sexuality our ancestors knew. We do not know our philosophies, or argue that African philosophies do not exist. In the paper, the issue of “woman-to-woman marriage” is brought up, and Oloruntoba-Oju argues (rightly so) that this institution was not necessarily proof that the pre-colonial African societies that practiced them accepted homosexuality and lesbian marriage. The institution was probably not created to facilitate lesbian marriage, although it did develop for varied reasons depending on region. Western scholars and researchers have no right to impose their ideas of gay marriage on a society where a woman marrying another woman was a show of wealth. But who is to say that one lone African woman did not use this institution to her advantage and to be with a woman she loved? Maybe the antagonists have the ability to read through the minds and memories, and look into the houses and bedrooms of the female husbands and their wives. Apparently no researcher is yet to have asked women married to other women if there had ever been a sexual component to their “social” arrangement (see Amory P. Deborah, ‘“Homosexuality” in Africa: Issues and Debates’).
There is still not enough research into African history outside of Egypt
The majority of African history remains shrouded, under-researched, in the shadows or honestly ignored. Majority of us do not know history outside the racist colonial lens and are surprised to read that our ancestors engaged in complex medical procedures or evenwrote in indigenous script. Without this knowledge of pre-colonial African history, along with the reality that there is even less research on African sexuality in history, how can someone know for sure that “homosexuality” was not practiced before the Europeans and/or Arabs introduced it? That it wasn’t an identity?
Linking to the point below, the fact that most of African histories are oral as opposed to written makes no difference. How many Arabs, for example, would argue that homosexuality is a “Western deviation” today despite the fact that there is written evidence to the contrary. The activities of medieval Arab lesbians were well documented in studies from the 9th century by philosopher al-Kindi and physician Yuhanna ibn Masawayh. Written history can be destroyed and silenced just as oral histories can.
The role of colonialism
Africans tend to dismiss the ways in which colonialism (both European and Arab) damaged institutions and our view of self and history. Most of what we insist today as “tradition” is in most cases not, and I sometimes imagine our ancestors being shocked at some of the things we claim as tradition. For example, views on marriage, years ago I read a paper that argued that homosexuality would be strange to Africans because we have always placed a high value on marriage. I am sure I cannot find that paper now, in my recent readings on Igboland I’ve seen that there were actually several people in this pre-colonial African society who never married. The sex workers, the priests and priestesses (all wives of Gods and Goddesses), the slaves. I will not be surprised if there were more societies like the pre-colonial Igbo in this respect, it may be more accurate to say that high value was placed on children or that emphasis on marriage was reserved for certain classes of people.
There is no way one can discuss pre-colonial Africa, or in fact pre-colonial Asia, the Americas, Australia, while belittling the role of colonialism. One cannot ignore that colonialism drastically changed mindsets, as people adopted Victorian mindsets and mannerisms eschewing the “barbaric” ways of their ancestors.
The role of language
Oloruntoba-Oju is Yoruba, in the paper they argue that Yoruba people have no words, sayings or proverbs that indicate that they knew what homosexuality was. Yoruba is a colourful language, and can be quite explicit in detailing heterosexual sex emphasising the penis and the vagina, so Oloruntoba-Oju believes that it should have been the same for homosexual sex. At the same time, a saying “apparently” hidden deep within the Yoruba divination cult was produced by a Nigerian scholar and says obinrin dun ba sun ju okunrin lo (“it is easier to sleep [have sex] with a woman than with a man”). This saying is dismissed as an isolated example, Oloruntoba-Oju drives home their point by demonstrating how metaphorical Yoruba is, something that all Yoruba speakers know. In praising twins, one says “twins, kindred of Isokun, born of an ape” however this clearly doesn’t mean twins are apes or monkeys. Perhaps this “isolated” saying refers to something else entirely, yet somehow the sayings which reference penises and vaginas are not metaphorical. Not to mention this widely popular saying, okunrin o se ba sun bi obinrin (“you cannot sleep with a man as with a woman”) which is to be taken at face value because it is “more established”.
Context is ignored, the former saying seems to be coming from the perspective of a woman, while the latter from a man. If a Yoruba woman who has sex with other women, says “okunrin o se ba sun bi obinrin” is it not impossible that her next sentence would be “obinrin dun ba sun ju okunrin lo”.
It seems the antagonists prefer to find a term that directly translates to “lesbian” in Yoruba language. However what happens if this term is vague or unrecognisable, it could have been simply “witch” as in a recent Yoruba film I watched, Enisoko Soja, in which a man’s mother was branded a “witch” after his wife dreamt she “made love” to her. Most terms associated with lesbians in other languages are from the action of tribadism. In Arabic, the roots of words linked to “lesbianism” and “lesbian” (s-h-q) means “to pound” or “to rub” (see Amer Sahar (2009), “Medieval Arab Lesbians and Lesbian-Like Women”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 18, No. 2). And in Urdu words which refer to female homosexual activity are rooted in words like chapta which means “flat”, chapatna “to be pressed flat” and chipatna “to cling to” (see Vanita Ruth (2004), “Married Among Their Companions”: Female Homoerotic Relations in Nineteenth-Century Urdu RekhtiPoetry in India, Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 16, No. 1). African languages may be unique and different, or they may be similar, some antagonists may be searching for words they expect to clearly spell out L-E-S-B-I-A-N while ignoring words other words like “pounders” or “clingers” or even “witches”.
In addressing the difficulties of investigating lesbian women in history Judith Bennett introduces the term “lesbian-like” to cover those women who in the past lived lives that may have offered opportunities for same-sex love, or lived in circumstances where they could nurture and support other women. Rather than referring to such women outrightly as lesbian, Bennett suggests “lesbian-like” to extend over those women in the past who felt emotions towards other women, even if they never acted sexually on this; women who never married; women who cross-dressed or assumed masculine roles and mannerisms; as well as women who resisted established cultural norms of sexual propriety (see Bennett M. Judith, “Lesbian-Like” and the Social History of Lesbianisms).  “Lesbian-like” recognises that not all societies had constructed terms for women who had feelings for or had sex with other women.
Oloruntoba-Oju mentions ‘yan ludu, a term that means sodomy in Hausa and is derived from Arabic. ‘Yan ludu literally means “people of Lot” and apparently the fact that Hausa people refer to sodomy with this term “exposes its modern and post-contact origin”. But what exactly does it expose? That the word is not indigenous to the Hausa, or that sodomy isn’t? Considering the tone of the paper, I’ll go with the latter. Notice the assumption that all gay men engage in anal sex, there is also no mention of language appropriation. Today some Yoruba people call milk, miliki, a term that clearly has roots in English, so I guess Yoruba people did not know what milk was before Europeans introduced it. Moving farther yet closer to the topic on hand, in Japan today, lesbians are referred to as レズ (rezu) fromレズビアン (rezubian) which of course comes from English, lesbian.  レズビアン is a foreign word in every way, even down to the characters that form it, this must mean that that there were no lesbians in Japan before European intervention, an estimation that is laughable considering how well documented same-sex relations are in Japanese literature and art history (although the bulk is on men loving and sexing men because this is HIStory).
What constitutes “gay behaviour”?
When I was growing up, it was a common to see two men holding hands while walking down the street in parts of Nigeria. Now, maybe a decade later, this scene has become rare because two men holding hands is “gay”.
Oloruntoba-Oju states “it is true that even in contemporary times, a good number of Africans go through an entire lifetime without coming into contact with gay behaviour either in the rural areas or even after having passed through such “high risk” urban locales”…with nothing to back his claim except for this footnote; “A colleague reading this article recently drew my attention to a forum observation by an apparently gay white fellow who had been in Nigeria and had noticed that straight Nigerians apparently do not have what he called a “gaydar”, hence a lot of gay sex does take place without them being aware. If this observation is true it may well be a further curiosity that these Africans seem not to have developed a gay sensitivity over the centuries”. This falls back to several of my points above, especially the one on imposing Western definitions on Africans. Oloruntoba-Oju argues elsewhere in the paper against Western hegemony but fails to see how contradictory it is to then attach relevance to this “white fellow” who believes that Nigerians do not have a gaydar. There is no consideration that what constitutes gay behaviour in Nigeria and how gay Nigerians single each other out may be different from what this white man is used to. I mean how many straight people in the country this white person comes from possess a gaydar? Does this suggest further curiosity that these white people seem not to have developed a gay sensitivity over the centuries?
Oloruntoba-Oju then continues, “many may have “heard stories” but these are mostly about gayness being a “foreign import” and occurring in proximal geographical locations where foreign contact has occurred over the centuries”…again with no references. Oloruntoba-Oju mentions “logical” reasons in being an antagonist to this preposterous idea that homosexual identity is African but it is really debatable whether their paper exhibits logic.
Oloruntoba-Oju argues that it is speculative to debate that there was “homosexuality” in pre-colonial Africa. In my humble opinion, it is just as speculative to argue that there was no “homosexuality” in pre-colonial Africa. While majority of these African researchers do not like stating whether they are talking about same-sex emotions, or same-sex sexual activity, I am referring to both. I am not speculating when I state that some of my African female ancestors must have developed feelings of attraction to other women. Whether my female ancestors acted on these feelings may be speculation, yet in societies were initiation ceremonies and sexuality training schools involved women touching, massaging and pulling breasts and vulvas, usually under the guise of “training” in order to please future male partners, it is not inconceivable that my female ancestors physically loved the women they adored. Maybe they did this secretly, maybe they were in the open and society did not mind because it recognised that these things happen (getting speculative here).
Albeit confusing, the paper was at times well written and even convincing, I can agree that Western hegemony should not be imposed on queer African identities but every other point was like someone inserting needles in my skin. I suggest that heterosexual African researchers leave criticisms of homosexual labels and identities to African queers themselves. We are not as close-minded as you, and this is not an insult, a privileged heterosexual worldview is limiting.
Homophobic African antagonists, yes homophobic, fail to realise that part of their antagonism is attempting to wipe the thousands of Africans who engaged in same-sex relationships, whether sexual or not, from history. Oloruntoba-Oju positions as being largely for queer Africans stating that “a synchronic focus on today’s sexuality realities in Africa may well offer safer grounds of analysis of queer representation…” but then rounds up  with “…than the frequently strained colonial imaginaries on pre-contact African sexualities”! This is someone who finds the pain of being labelled as a homophobe (because homosexual friends!) greater than the pain of LGBTIQ Africans who have to face homophobia daily. Oloruntoba-Oju, in this paper, completely ignores and, pardon the colourful language, shits upon the feelings, thoughts and experiences of queer Africans. It could be that the paper is addressed to the West and Western scholars, hence the mention of “colonial imaginaries”, but this further emphasises my point on Oloruntoba-Oju completely ignoring that queer Africans will find their presented historic picture problematic.
I would like to end with a call to the queer African women reading this, especially if you have a link to histories in some way, even if it is access to the elders or ancestors. We need to gather the stories and voices, keep them in a safe space where people can access this information. Perhaps now or in the future, one woman will appreciate that there was a woman who loved another woman in 13th century West Africa.
Amer Sahar (2009), “Medieval Arab Lesbians and Lesbian-Like Women”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 18, No. 2 Vanita Ruth (2004),
Married Among Their Companions”: Female Homoerotic Relations in Nineteenth- Century Urdu Rekhti Poetry in India, Journal of Women’s History, Vol. 16, No. 1

Peace and Solidarity Award for Father Kizito

Father Renato Sesana, known to everybody in Kenya as Father Kizito, has received a prestigious award assigned every year in December by the Lombardy Region in Italy for “Peace and Solidarity”. The motivation reads :”With over thirty years of intense work done in Africa struggling for justice, human rights, democracy and peace, he is committed to supporting constructive dialogue and mutual respect among peoples, and to assure that everyone can have a dignified life”.
Last December 13, in Milan, Father Venanzio Milani, who in the past had been Vice Superior General of the Comboni,  collected the award, with goes with a 10,000 euros cash (something more than a million Kenya shillings) on his behalf, since Father Kizito was the same day in Tone la Maji, one of the homes for former street children he has started around Nairobi, as usually busy with new projects and programs. That is where we met and interviewed him.
Father Kizito, what does this award mean to you?
It is important to me because it is given by the Lombardy Region, the region of my people, of my parents, of those who have taught me with their daily example the values of dedication, work, sacrifice, honesty and simplicity of life, generosity, respect and service the weak and the poor. On these values I have built my life, when Jesus, on the shore of the lake of Lecco, my town of origin, invited me to follow him “to the ends of the earth.” While aware of my shortcomings, I have not ever regretted it. Even in the darkest moments, I always thanked God for calling me to be open to others, to the world, and to work humbly, along with millions to others, for the growth of a new people.
Looking back, how do you see the years you spent in Africa? Was time well spent?
The recognition of the validity of the roots from which I come would be a foolish attitude if incapable  of recognizing the values I have leaned form my African friends.
With them, I learned to be a brother to all, and with joy, when I visit Italy, I recognize as my brother the African immigrant in Lecco. We did the opposite journey, affirming in different ways the same right to be at home anywhere in the world. Our shared humanity unites us well beyond the things that could divide us. When I return to Lecco, and I happen to catch a train early in the morning to go to Bergamo, Brescia, Milan, I feel to be back to when I took the train to go to work to the motorcycle factory at the time of my youth. Today on those early morning trains there are people from all over the world who make work the economy that was built up by my grandparents. There is continuity and a communion which are invisible only to those who do not want to see.
But immigrants in Italy are often regarded with suspicion, if not with hostility…
Solidarity is not such if it is not open to everyone, always and everywhere. The boundaries of solidarity are the boundaries of humanity. The economic crisis that we are experiencing in Italy cannot possibly be read as an invitation to live more fraternally, leaving the position of privilege, and exploitation of others, in which history has put us? Today we have to accept that if we really want justice and solidarity we must have them for all the people of the world, without boundaries.
You are well known also for having brought the attention of the world to the Nuba people, about fifteen years ago. Are you still engaged in that area?
Certainly. Now we have registered a Koinonia Nuba in Juba, South Sudan. Koinonia is the name of the community I have already established here in Nairobi and in Zambia. Now we want to assist the Nuba refugees who were forced to flee to South Sudan.
What are peace and solidarity?
If we start giving theoretical definition we will never end and we will get more confused. Instead in recent years in Nairobi I have learned that if I want to grow, I have to let the children teach me the way. They at times seem to live in a dream world, where only to love and be loved count, but then they are capable of extraordinary concreteness. Yesterday I asked a group of children just rescued from the  streets of Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, who are now living in a house of first asylum, what is the time of day when they feel more at peace. I told them that their response would serve to explain to people who live far what peace means in Nairobi. The response of Ismail, aged 7, was: “When we eat together, and we must not fight to grab a little more food. There is food for everyone, and we share it. This is peace.” That is the best definition of peace and solidarity I ever heard.
You are a priest. How do you link your spiritual mission with your charitable work?
You see, in Ismail’s answer there is the whole mystery of the incarnate spirit that is the human person, his present, and the eternity that is already in him. With Ismail and others like him you understand the meaning of communion. The goods are meaningful only if they are signs and instruments of fraternity. Only in this way life is lived in truth: a gift shared with others. Jesus must inspire us all on how to attend to the needs of the whole person. Don Primo Mazzolari, a spiritual guide to many priests of my generation in Italy, once wrote: “We have to give everything, and fast, because the day is short and the creatures are in such need of a little love”.
Can you tell us how you will use the million plus Kenya shillings you have received?
No secret. Everything will go into scholarships to the youth who grew up in Koinonia homes around Nairobi and have completed form four a few weeks ago.

By Staff -Afronline.org

Kuwait expels German who attended protest


Non-accredited foreign journalists are suspect as only citizens have the right to protest
  • Reuters

Kuwait: Kuwait deported a German national who said he was a journalist covering protests in the Gulf Arab nation but lacked the required press accreditation, a Kuwaiti security source said.
All journalists working in Kuwait need to be registered with the Information Ministry and non-accredited foreigners who attend demonstrations are regarded as suspect because only citizens of the country have the right to protest.
But it is relatively rare for a Western visitor to be expelled. The small, oil-rich country has a freer press than its Gulf neighbours and allows a greater level of dissent.
“He was deported from Kuwait,” said the security source, without giving the man’s name.

The source said the man had told police he was a journalist but could not produce a press permit when detained earlier this month after attending at least one protest.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was aware of the case. “The German Embassy was in contact with the Kuwaiti authorities and also provided consular assistance to the man involved,” a spokeswoman said, without giving further details.
Kuwait’s Information Ministry was not immediately available for comment.
Kuwait has been rocked by a series of demonstrations since October after ruling emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah used emergency powers to change voting rules ahead of a parliamentary election which took place on December 1.
Kuwaiti journalists say they have been practising self-censorship on sensitive subjects for years but — unlike their counterparts in other Gulf countries — they are able to write articles that criticise government policy and ruling family members apart from the emir. 

Kuwait Emir stresses compliance with constitution

Parliament inauguration speeches urges nation-building, national unity
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  •  December 16, 2012
  • http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/kuwait/kuwait-emir-stresses-compliance-with-constitution-1.1119468

Kuwait security forces block parliament protests

Protests came as lawmakers held their first parliamentary session
  • AP
  • Published: 13:10 December 16, 2012
  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • About 400 protesters participated in a demonstration in downtown Kuwait City on Saturday.
Kuwait City: Security forces in Kuwait have blocked hundreds of protesters from staging a rally outside the parliament building as lawmakers held their first session since elections earlier this month.
The confrontation is part of near daily demonstrations by anti-government factions, which boycotted the December 1 election over objections to changes in voting rules imposed by Kuwait’s ruler.
There was no violence on Sunday, but protest leaders are vowing to increase pressures until Kuwait’s emir disbands the current parliament and orders new elections under the former voting rules that allowed people to cast multiple ballots. After being driven from outside parliament, demonstrators gathered in front of Kuwait’s supreme court building.
Kuwait’s deepening political crisis is being closely watched by the US, which has thousands of soldiers based in the strategic Gulf nation.

Bahrain launches radio for GCC summit


Summit issues to be discussed by programme guests
  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief

Manama: Bahrain has launched a radio station to cover the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit to be held in Manama on December 24-25.
The GCC Voice Radio will broadcast programmes from 9am to 11am until Sunday, December 23, but will have a larger slot thereafter, broadcasting from 1pm to 5pm until Wednesday.
Radio presenters and media crews from GCC member countries and the general secretariat will be presenting programmes on the radio station that will broadcast on the 98.4 FM frequency, the head of Bahrain Radio, Younus Salman, said.
The radio will host leading GCC political, social cultural and sport personalities who will discuss the issues on the agenda of the 33rd GCC Summit.  

Younus said that the audience will be allowed to interact with the radio through a Twitter account.
Bahrain News Agency (BNA) will also carry the radio programmes live, he said.
Several Bahrainis have expressed hope that the Manama Summit will be a step forward in changing the GCC, founded in 1981, from a loose alliance into a real union, similar in its structure to the European Union.
Bahraini officials have said that talk about a Gulf union at the summit was unlikely, although they insisted that the possibility could not be ruled out completely.
Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz at the last summit last year called upon the six members of the GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — to move from the phase of cooperation to the phase of union within a single entity.
The idea was endorsed by the member states, but divergences over the pace of its implementation have emerged, causing them to call for more time to look into finer details.
In May, the GCC leaders said that they would announce the union at a special summit to be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Bahrainis who supported the union had hoped for an announcement at some time of a fast track that would in its initial phase bring together two or three states. The first core would be joined later by the other countries, they said.

Bahrain human rights activist detained at Manama rally

The vice-president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) has been detained, the organisation has said.
Sayed Yousif al-Muhafdha was arrested at a protest on Monday in the capital, Manama, which commemorated the killing of two Bahrainis in 1994, it added.
Prosecutors ordered that Mr Muhafdha be held for a week pending an investigation into an accusation he broadcast false information on Twitter.
Last week, a court rejected an appeal by the BCHR's president, Nabeel Rajab.
It upheld his convictions for encouraging illegal gatherings, but cleared him of insulting police and reduced his prison sentence from three years.
Human Rights Watch called the decision "bizarre", and said Mr Rajab was being punished for exercising his right to freedom of association.
'Excessive force'
Mr Muhafdha, who has campaigned tireless for the release of Mr Rajab, has been detained on several occasions by the Bahraini authorities.
He was detained at a rally called by the 14 February Coalition for "Bahrain Martyrs' Day", which marks the killing of two protesters in 1994.
Security personnel fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them.Security forces attempted to prevent opposition supporters attending the demonstration by closing most roads leading to Manama, but around 100 still managed to gather in the narrow streets of the city's market district.
A BCHR statement said protesters were "attacked... with excessive force", and that 25 men and three women were arrested, among them Mr Muhafdha, who had been there to "monitor and document the situation".
"The BCHR believes that the arrest of Muhafdha is part of an ongoing systematic targeting, harassment and detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, and in particular those associated with the BCHR," it added.
The organisation also strongly condemned the "continuous crackdown on civilians who choose to exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly".
Last month, the government banned all public gatherings and rallies.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Al Khalifah said "repeated abuse" of the rights to freedom of speech and expression could no longer be accepted.


Nigeria: The War of Words

Professor Patrick Muoboghare, a former leader of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU),  Delta State University  Abraka  chapter turned  Commissioner for Basic Education in Delta State, is never  scared of controversies. In this interview, he bares his mind on the war of words  in the  aftermath of Chinua Achebe’s newest book; state police; indigenous crude oil refineries destruction; kidnapping;  armed robbery; and  sports.

Doha Climate Summit Ends With No New CO2 Cuts or Funding

The United Nations climate talks in Doha went a full extra 24 hours and ended without increased cuts in fossil fuel emissions and without financial commitments between 2013 and 2015. “This an incredibly weak deal,” said Samantha Smith representing the Climate Action Network, a coalition of more than 700 civil society organisations.
“Governments came here with no mandate for action,” Smith said in a press scrum moments after the meeting known as COP 18 ended and the 195 parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) approved a complex package called “The Doha Climate Gateway”.
The Doha Gateway creates a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol to cut fossil fuel emissions by industrialised nations from 2013 to 2020 but does not set new targets. There is also no financial support to help poor countries adapt to impacts of climate change – only agreement for more meetings in 2013. Talks will also begin next year to create a “mechanism” to assess damages and costs for countries suffering losses from climate change.
Finally, the Doha Climate Gateway has an agreed outline for two years of negotiations on a new global climate treaty that would go into legal force in 2020.
“It is impossible to get everyone here to smile….I too am disappointed,” said Qatar’s Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the COP18 president. Al-Attiyah told Tierramérica he was surprised countries wanted to make so many changes throughout the two weeks and right up to the final hours.
However, this is a “historic” agreement, Al-Attiyah insisted.
Doha will do nothing to cut emissions that are taking the world to four degrees and more of warming. It offers little in terms of finance to help poor countries cope with climate change, Smith said.
Smith singled out the U.S. and Canada for blocking progress on keys issues. Canada was one of the worst, she said. While profiting from its massive oil sands operations, it was “super-obstructive on finance”.
Industrialised countries promised to put 100 billion dollars a year into a Green Climate Fund by 2020. To bridge the gap till then, developing nations asked for 60 billion dollars in total by 2015. Britain, Germany and few other countries promised to contribute six billion dollars but this is not binding. Under the Doha Climate Gateway, countries agreed to further talks on finance in 2013.
The loss and damage debate was among the most intense during closed meetings, featuring the U.S pitted against island states like the Philippines that are badly impacted by stronger cyclones and sea level rise. The U.S. delegates blocked all references that implied compensation or liability, openly admitting they feared a political backlash at home, according to an anonymous source.
“Loss and damage is huge issue for Central America. We are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” said Laura Lopez Baltodano, of Centro Humboldt Nicaragua, an environmental NGO.
“Honduras and Nicaragua are the number one and number three most vulnerable countries in the world according to the Climate Risk Index,” Baltodano told Tierramérica here in Doha.
The Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index was released here a few days ago. It said those two countries have been the most affected in terms of lost lives and damages over the past 20 years. In 2011, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan and El Salvador were the worst affected by extreme weather events in 2011.
In 2010, at COP 16 in Cancun, there was agreement to find ways to assess and reduce losses and damages from impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events like sea level rise, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity and desertification.
Developing countries wanted a new institution and framework to deal with loss and damage, but the U.S. was opposed to any new institution. The compromise is for a “new mechanism” to be created in 2013.
A new second phase of the Kyoto Protocol will run from 2013 to 2020. Getting this second phase or commitment is considered very important by developing countries because it has hard-won legal terms that commit countries to making cuts as well as methods for measuring and verifying emission levels.
However, only the European Union, Australia and a few other countries are involved, representing just 12 percent of global emissions. The U.S. has never participated, while Canada and Japan have opted out of the second phase.
None of those in the second Kyoto phase increased their emission cuts pledges. They did agree to a mandatory review of their reduction targets in 2014. Rich countries outside of Kyoto promised to make comparable cuts but offered nothing new here in Doha.
“The COP process is very disappointing,” said Baltodano, who has attended two previous ones. “It’s very clear that countries’ economic interests dominate the negotiations.”
Countries are mainly influenced by the corporate sector and civil society has very little interaction or influence there, she said. “There is a huge space we don’t reach.”
The Doha outcome puts the world on track for three, four or even five degrees of warming, said the delegate from the South Pacific island nation of Nauru who represents the Alliance of Small Island States in the final plenary.
“We’re not talking about how comfortable your people (in developed world) may live but whether our people live,” the delegate said. “The lives of our people are on the line here.”
* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.

By Stephen LeahyIPS

Rebels: Sudan, Iran Agree to Set Up Military Base in Red Sea

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Sudanese rebels claimed that Khartoum and Tehran have struck an agreement to set up an Iranian military base off the coasts of Sudan in the Red Sea.

Sudan's anti-government newspaper Hurriyat cited an unnamed opposition source as saying that the Sudanese government had struck a deal with Iran for building a base in the Red Sea.

Another Sudanese anti-government news outlet, al-Rakoba, quoted Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as saying that President Omar al-Bashir has made "highly advanced" arrangements with Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to establish a naval base either in Port Sudan or elsewhere in the Red Sea.

The accusations came after two Iranian naval vessels, the 1,400-ton Destroyer Jamaran and the 4,700-ton support ship Bushehr, docked in Port Sudan on Saturday.

Mahjoub Hussein, a spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, said that "the visit of the Iranian warships, the second in recent months, was not intended as a message to Israel but rather to test regional opinion regarding the establishment of an Iranian military base".

According to reports in the Sudanese press, Sudan's army spokesperson Colonel Al- Sawarmi Khalid Saad said on Friday that the visit by the Iranian military vessels is part of a "military exchange" with Iran. The ships are scheduled to stay for three days, during which they will be open for view by the public.

On Saturday, the Iranian Navy's 23rd fleet of warships, including home-made Jamaran destroyer, entered Port Sudan, the Iranian navy announced.

The Navy's public relations office said the fleet, comprised of Jamaran destroyer and the logistical chopper carrier vessel, Bushehr, docked in Port Sudan after passing through the strategic Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and accomplishing its mission in the Red Sea.

Late in October, the Iranian Navy's 22nd fleet of warship had docked in Port Sudan.

The Iranian Navy's fleet of warships was comprised of Khark warship and Shahid Naqdi Destroyer. Khark has 250 crewmembers and can carry three helicopters.

The Iranian Navy said at the time that the visit was aimed at conveying the message of peace and friendship to the neighboring countries and ensuring security for transportation and shipping against sea piracy.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008, when Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.

According to UN Security Council resolutions, different countries can send their warships to the Gulf of Aden and coastal waters of Somalia against the pirates and even with prior notice to Somali government enter the territorial waters of that country in pursuit of Somali sea pirates.

The Gulf of Aden - which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea - is an important energy corridor, particularly because Persian Gulf oil is shipped to the West through the Suez Canal.

Bahrain activist Nabeel Rajab's prison sentence reduced


An appeals court in Bahrain has reduced the prison sentence handed to prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab from three years to two.

The court upheld Mr Rajab's conviction for encouraging "illegal gatherings".
His lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, told the Associated Press that he was cleared of a charge of insulting police.
Mr Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, has been a leader of the pro-democracy protests which have rocked the kingdom since February 2011.
The 48-year-old is also one of the most well-known activists in the Arab world, with more than 185,000 followers on Twitter.
Mr Rajab's wife, Sumaya, said she had spoken to him briefly in court on Tuesday after the appeal against his conviction was rejected.
"He told me he was not expecting two years. He was thinking that they would release him," she told the BBC.
On Sunday, US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner urged the authorities to "drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving non-violent political expression and freedom of assembly".
The next day, another activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, was sentenced a month in prison for entering the "prohibited area" of the former site of Manama's Pearl Roundabout - the focus of last year's unrest.


Palestinians of African Descent

Minorities can easily be overlooked in the heat of national struggle. No-one knows exactly how many Palestinians of African descent exist in Palestine. But they have lived on the land since the days of the slave trade, at least.
They may not be singled out for particularly discriminatory treatment by Israel. However, within their own society, the picture is sometimes less clear. Reem Mohamed Amer was a founding member of perhaps the only support group for Palestinians of African descent in Israel/Palestine. She exuded a warm and unguarded bonhomie, often beaming with a sunny smile or cracking up with a rich infectious laugh. Reem sat in an office tea room, chewing gum and swiveling her chair slowly from left to right, changing direction every time her toes touched the floor.
Reem’s day job was behind the counter at a post office in Kfar Qassem, where her family had lived since her grandfather moved there from Ramle after the First World War. His wife – Reem’s grandmother – was shot dead by Israeli troops in the 1956 massacre, which claimed the lives of 49 other Palestinian civilians, for nominally breaking an unpublicised village curfew.
‘My father and uncle were survivors,’ Reem said shyly. ‘I don’t know the exact story because my father never wanted to talk about it but my uncle was in the group that cycled to the village. When they arrived, he saw shooting and hid behind a cactus. My father got in to Kfar Kassem in the last car that was let through. He saw his mother killed there. Later he developed alcohol problems. October was always a difficult time for him. ‘ The massacre took place on 31 October, 1956.
Continue reading on blacklooks.org

London Court discharges two Bahraini activists

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Ali Mushaima and Moosa Abd Ali were reprimanded for “trespassing” on a “diplomatic”premises and warned them not do it again. On 17th April 2012the two Bahraini activists broke away from their hunger strike outside the American Embassy and made their way to Belgrave Square; climbed onto a scaffolding attached to a nearby building and occupied the roof of the Bahraini Embassy. After 24 hours of negotiations, the pair came down voluntarily and were briefly arrested by the police. Two weeks ago they were taken to court where their case had been heard. Yesterday marked the end of the ordeal when a magistrate at the Court considered the case on its merits and ordered the discharge of Ali Mushaima and Moosa Abd Ali. He also ordered them to pay £100 each towards the cost of the extensive police operations at the scene. The judge expressed clear sympathy with them especially after the courtroom turned into a trial of the Alkhalifa murderous regime.
As the regime became more desperate in the face of the steadfast people, its cruelty has become more vicious. It has become emboldened by the presence within the police and security forces of the British “security experts” like John Yates, Sir Daniel Bethlehem and Sir Jeffrey Jowell. Over the past few months human rights violations have escalated and the regime’s ability to hide its crimes with the help of those “legal” and “professional” experts has also improved. On Tuesday ۵th December, Alkhalifa Death Squads attacked the town of Bani Jamra using live ammunition as well as shotguns. A young man of 20 years was shot in the face and left for dead. His face became another emblem for Bahrain’s peaceful revolution which is being crushed by evil power of criminal dictators. Three women from the area were arrested; Lubaba Jaffar Mulla Ahmad, her sister Salma and Fatema Hassan Hussain. The Death Squads aimed at another Bahraini, Redha Al Ghasra, but missed. Another Bahraini boy, Mohammad Ibrahim Al Zaki, was arrested on 3rd December at Maqaba Town.
In the past two days the regime’s Death Squads attacked several towns and villages including Bani Jamra, Dair, Wadyan and Samaheej. Ransacking people’s homes continued throughout the night during which the contents of these houses were destroyed or looted.
Last Saturday 1st December Alkhalifa forces demolished four more mosques in various places. In Karzakkan Fadak Mosque was demolished by regime’s mercenaries using tractors. Three other mosques were demolished at Hamad Town; Fadak AlZahra at ۲nd Roundabout, Abu Talib at 19th Roundabout and Imam Hassan Al Askari at Roundabout 22. These mosques were destroyed by Alkhalifa last year but were partially rebuilt by the people. A tent that had been erected at the site of Imam Al Hadi’s mosque at Roundabout 20 has been burnt by regime’s forces.
On 3rd December The Washington Post published an opinion column by By Elisa Massimino who is president and chief executive officer of Human Rights First under the title “An intolerable status quo in Bahrain”. After describing the proceedings of the trial of the medical staff on 22nd November she wrote: “During my 25 years as a lawyer and human rights advocate, I’ve been in many courtrooms in many places. But I’ve never seen anything quite like what I recently witnessed in Bahrain. I sat in on one of the hearings for the 28 medics being prosecuted after treating injured protesters during the democratic uprising last year”. She concluded: “In a region where threats to U.S. interests abound, it may be tempting for the Obama administration to conclude that, while not ideal, the status quo in Bahrain is tolerable for now. That would be a mistake. There is no status quo in Bahrain. The situation is deteriorating, and pro-democracy activists are growing more desperate. There will either be reform, or a descent into worsening violence. The United States may not be able to control the outcome, but — for its own strategic interests and the good of the Bahraini people — it must do everything it can to persuade the regime to choose the right path”.

South Africa's Nelson Mandela in hospital 'for tests'


South Africa's former leader Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital in the capital Pretoria to undergo tests, officials say.

The office of President Jacob Zuma said 94-year-old Mr Mandela was doing well and there was "no cause for alarm".
Mr Mandela spent more than two decades in jail under the white minority apartheid regime.
He served as South Africa's first black president between 1994 and 1999, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Mr Mandela has rarely appeared in public since 2004, when he retired from public life.
In January 2011 he was treated for a serious chest infection, and a year later underwent a diagnostic procedure for an abdominal problem.
Officials said on Saturday that he would need medical attention "from time to time" because of his age.
Mr Zuma said in a statement: "We wish Madiba [Mandela] all the best.
"The medical team is assured of our support as they look after and ensure the comfort of our beloved founding president of a free and democratic South Africa."